I enjoyed International Women’s Day 2020. Well …. sort of. My enjoyment was more than a little tainted by a personal discomfort that has been bothering me for weeks.
Recently, I was catching up with old friends. Friends I am open and frank with and was pleased to see. I was sharing my thoughts and personal feelings on the gender pay gap. On reflection, I was actually sharing my personal frustration and even pain. For example the time I needed help in a role and hired a man reporting to me with less experience. He was awesome I really enjoyed what he brought to the team. However, I did not set or negotiate his salary, it was government and set by a central team. They put him on 8% more than me.
My friend I was sharing this and other examples with said something that floored me. He said:
“pff it’s only a statistic!”
I didn’t know what to say, uncharacteristically I got a little glassy-eyed and emotional. The conversation moved to other issues. But this keeps coming back to me since then.
“It’s only a statistic” … as I’m driving … showering … “It’s only a statistic”
I think that perhaps he was trying to be supportive. Something along the lines of “you are strong and tough and skilled and don’t need to be held back by statistical odds, or glass ceilings. You, my dear-old-friend can smash them all”.
If that was the case, the sentiment is nice.
But, and it is a big but – now I feel that not only am I a classic gender pay gap statistic but that somehow it is my fault. I did not try hard enough. If I was really that amazing and competent – I would be the exception-that-makes-the-rule. No exceptions here, just little old me and my financial challenges as a single parent with two mortgages earning less than my male counterparts for the last 20+ years.
Of course, as a single parent, there are many more statistics out to get me, like increased risk of poor health outcomes, poverty and death and stuff. Or should I not worry because these too are “just statistics”. Surely I am better than them? Somehow more worthy than those other single parents falling victim to these statistics? No of course not.